As a new bride I brought no domestic skills into my marriage. I was worthless!
My husband did not care as he was adept at so many things many of which he learned from his incredible mother Mabes.
Plus, he had learned to take care of himself thanks to the Army and living on his own.
Hearing stories of how Mabes rewired a lamp, fixed a leaky faucet, changed a flat tire, and made her couture clothing herself left me breathless.
I was very young and my skills were reading, listening to music and generally being worthless in comparison to Mabes.
In my defense, I could make a bed with tight ends thanks to my Brownie days. I may still have the badge!
She shot the moose whose head was mounted above the fireplace at the family cabin. She drove a snowmobile.
She did not plow the “north 40” but she could have if necessary.
My husband described her as someone who could do anything, change the filters, unclog the sink, etc., and still at the end of the day look like a lady.
She had impeccable manners and a great sense of style. She wore beautiful clothes and was at home in any social situation.
I was intimidated by Mabes. I tried to “be seen and not heard”.
She was a formidable and a no-nonsense kind of woman. Her home and her appearance rivalled the best of those TV moms.
She vacuumed the dining room twice a day. Heaven forbid that a crumb should lay more than fifteen minutes on the floor!
Everything from pillowcases to cotton underwear was ironed. She had a mangle that ironed her clothes and linens beautifully.
She showered and changed into beautiful attire before her husband came home. They enjoyed a cocktail before dinner.
There were no servants but Mabes’ home was immaculate and well-ordered.
I met her as she was divorcing her husband of 30 years.
It was her choice and a brave undertaking for someone who had spent those 30 years as a housewife.
She had put her education on hold to put her husband through medical school.
This is how she won my heart.
It was during a trip when I stayed at her house without my husband and kids. We had a long talk during which I cried and she listened.
I was overwhelmed with the whole schtick…motherhood, marriage, career, “having it all”!
As I was turning off the light on my bedside table, she knocked and opened my door. I have never forgotten her words.
“Let me tell you something that took me years to learn. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do!”
With that, she closed the door and I settled down to sleep.
Once again, she knocked on the door, stuck her head in and said,
“Here’s another thing. If that son of mine gives you a hard time, just tell him to go to hell!”
I was shocked to hear her talk so strongly and even to include her only son in her comments.
But, over the years, I realized that we had more in common than the same last name.
We shared a bond as women trying to do it right for our families, our community and for ourselves if there was time or energy left.
We never spoke of this interaction but her words helped me find clarity and strength then and now.
Thank you Mabes. I love you and miss you!